Humanitarian Disarmament Forum on Racism and Intersectionality

Organizing Team, Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Soka Gakkai International

As has become tradition, in October members of the humanitarian disarmament community from around the world will come together for the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum. Since 2012, non-governmental organizations and global NGO coalitions working to advance humanitarian disarmament have met annually to share knowledge and resources and foster greater cooperation. Every Forum or “HDF” has sought to substantively explore a cross-cutting challenge and collectively identify solutions. This year, however, things will look a little different.

When the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Soka Gakkai International initially decided to host this year’s Humanitarian Disarmament Forum, we wanted to focus on diversity—particularly racism—and how to be more intersectional in working to advance humanitarian disarmament. At the time, the world looked very different. When we started our planning Covid-19 had not yet emerged. While the Black Lives Matter movement had existed for 7 years, the large-scale global awareness and discussion of systemic, institutional, and individual racism that occurred following the murder of George Floyd had not yet taken place. These events have altered our societies, our communities, and our awareness, and have also altered our approach to the planning of this year’s HDF. 

Racism is not limited to overt acts of hatred or violence; it is systemic and often nuanced. Civil society and our disarmament community are not immune to this. To dismantle these systems, we have a lot of work to do. Recognizing this, the Forum will provide a starting point to discuss the theme of structural racism and intersectionality, how this manifests in our work, and what we can do to address it. Intersectionality is a concept that acknowledges all forms of oppression, such as ableism, classism, misogyny, and racism, and examines how these oppressions operate in combination. Our goal is to acknowledge and address how we – personally and professionally – participate in systems of oppression, and collectively identify actions that the humanitarian disarmament community can take to ensure we are intersectional and anti-racist in our work.

While the humanitarian disarmament movement has taken significant steps to be more gender-inclusive and feminist over the last few years, it has been slower to incorporate an anti-racist and race-inclusive approach on a wider scale. By focusing on the theme of racism and intersectionality, we hope to develop our communities’ understanding of these issues. Deepening our understanding about how racism manifests within humanitarian disarmament gives us a better chance of addressing explicit, nuanced, structural, or systemic inequalities. Additionally, creating a disarmament community that’s more equitable and diverse will help to foster solidarity and support with those who live with the realities of racism within and outside our humanitarian disarmament community. This will, in turn, strengthen our own campaigning, advocacy, and outreach efforts.

This is not a topic that can be wrapped up in two days. In our efforts to avoid superficial and tokenistic change, we have put together a process that we hope will better facilitate meaningful learning, understanding, and positive action. So instead of a one-off meeting, this year the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum will kick off what we’re calling a learning journey. The HDF will be an ongoing process, held over the course of the next year in three major stages. First, we’ll hold a scaled-back online Forum on 19-21 October 2020 to introduce and frame the topic. Part One of the HDF will provide an introduction to the theme of structural racism and intersectionality, how this manifests in our work on humanitarian disarmament, and how it impacts us personally. Then we will undertake a guided self-study process of learning and dialogue for several months in Part Two. Finally, in Part Three we will meet in person for a more traditional Humanitarian Disarmament Forum in 2021 (travel permitting) to tie this work together.

By registering for this HDF, participants are committing to a learning journey for the next year and beyond, to build awareness, develop tools, and tackle inequity in our own community head on. We want this journey to be progressive, community building, healing, interesting, challenging and safe. We aim for the Forum to be a space for everyone. We expect people to leave the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum 2020-2021 feeling ownership of this issue and empowered to initiate learning and progress in their own lives, organizations, and campaigns. We hope you’ll join us!

To learn more about this year’s Humanitarian Disarmament Forum and to register, visit:

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